government's drive to boost the quality of life around the country is
to be a success, local government and regions minister Hilary
Armstrong said today.
Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield and
Bristol - that the country needed strong, thriving and competitive
cities throughout the regions, not just in London.
Ms Armstrong said:
'Our towns and cities are economic drivers, cultural centres and
major service providers. Success in them will improve living
standards well beyond their boundaries. That is why the government's
priority is to drive forward the urban renaissance, which we will be
setting out in the Urban White Paper this autumn.
'Alongside strong economies, we need to create strong communities.
That means providing good services - good schools, low crime and
attractive, vibrant and interesting areas. This is why the Urban
White Paper will emphasise the need to tackle economic, social and
physical concerns together. It also means modernising local
government to create the strong and accountable local leadership
communities need. The option of directly elected mayors where people
want them will help bring this about in our towns and cities.
'To be successful, we need to be creative and flexible, and we need
to try to make use of everyone's talents. Crucially, our main cities
recognise this need and this conference is a symbol of that
commitment to change. Each city already has much to be proud of, but
they recognise that much still needs to be done. We want to work with
them and through the white paper we hope to give our main cities the
tools they need to meet their potential.'
Ms Armstrong said that while all the cities had their economic
strengths, they also each had areas that were among the most deprived
in England. The new Indices of Deprivation, published last month,
would help them identify their poorest areas and tackle that
deprivation head on.
The government has already kicked off many initiatives that will help
towns and cities, such as raising education standards and tackling
planning and housing issues, and in the Spending Review set out how
billions of pounds will go to improving life around the country. Ms
Armstrong said the challenge now was to make sure that money - which
the strong economy had made available - made a positive difference to
Also speaking at the conference were education and employment
secretary David Blunkett, trade minister Richard Caborn and chief
economic advisor to the treasury Ed Balls.
1. The Urban White Paper will be published when the House returns
this autumn. The government's responses to the Urban Task Force
Report and the select committee on the Urban White Paper will both
be published at the same time. The government will also publish a
Rural White Paper, setting out how we can improve the quality of
life in the countryside.
2. The Social Exclusion Unit's National Strategy for Neighbourhood
Renewal Action Plan will also be published this autumn.
3. The Indices of Deprivation, announced last month, give a
detailed analysis of deprivation throughout England. This updated
information will help target policies and funding more effectively
to needy areas, underpinning the government's commitment to
tackling disadvantage. Details can be found on the DETR's